christmas cinnamon buns

As we near the end of December, I’ve found myself reflecting on the past year and its defining moments. I am overwhelmed by countless memories – memories of our wedding, our cousins’ weddings, and time spent with family; memories of welcoming Miles into our lives, our trip to Italy, and celebrations with friends. The boundless fortune and joy that has defined this year leaves me speechless with gratitude and thanks.

Of course, amid this fortune, there were a few struggles too – that at the time seemed punishing and unfair. revisiting them now with a changed perspective, they have taken on meaning and significance. We learned from them and emerged from them stronger than ever. When life throws us lemons in years to come, I hope I can remember that time and perspective will offer understanding, as I have found it always has.

So, with love, faith, and gratitude, I’m raising a glass of champagne [and a warm cinnamon bun] to 2014 – I leave you feeling grateful for what you’ve given me and excited for what’s to come.


christmas cinnamon buns

recipe from Food Network Kitchens

I can’t take credit for this recipe – it is from the kitchens of Food Network [with a few of my own notes]. This is a classic cinnamon bun at its best – simple and true to its reputation – just a buttery, cinnamon-y, warm roll of goodness. A perfect treat for Christmas morning, to enjoy in front of the tree with the ones you love.

for the dough:

1 cup whole milk [I only had 2% on hand, and that worked just fine]

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast [I used one 2 1/4 teaspoon packet]

1/4 cup plus 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl

1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

 

for the filling:

all-purpose flour, for dusting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

 

for the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

First, make the dough: warm the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until it reaches approximately 100 degrees [I usually just test with my finger; it should feel like warm bath water]. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar [do not stir]. Allow to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the melted butter, egg yolk, and vanilla. 

Meanwhile, combine the flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and freshly ground nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture. With a dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until thick and slightly sticky. Increase the speed to medium, and knead until the dough gathers around the hook and is smooth [about 5 minutes]. [You can add more flour at this point, if your mixture is really sticky – I didn’t find it was necessary].

Remove the dough and shape into a ball. Butter the mixer bowl, and return the dough to it, turning to coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size [Food Network approximates 1 hour and 15 minutes – I found mine took closer to 2 hours].

On a lightly floured surface, Roll the dough to a 12×14-inch rectangle, making sure the longer side is closest to you. Spread the top with the softened butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the far long edge. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the top of the buttered dough – still leaving that far edge untouched. 

Brush the unbuttered far edge with water. Roll the dough away from you in a tight cylinder and press on the long edge to seal. Cut the cylinder into 6 equal pieces.

Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and arrange the cinnamon buns, cut side down, in the pan [making sure to leave a little bit of room around each one]. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled [Food Network approximates about 40 minutes, but again I found mine took a bit longer – a little over an hour. At this stage, after the buns had doubled in size, I transferred the covered pan to the fridge, to bake the next morning].

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and bake the buns, uncovered, until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before serving [don’t be concerned if the buns are swimming in a pool of butter – they will soak it all up as they cool hehe]. 

While the buns are cooling, make the glaze: sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and whisk in cream and melted butter until smooth. Pour the glaze over the buns, and serve warm. 

stone fruit cobbler

we had a name picked out for him before we even saw him. it came to me one day – i’m not sure what sparked it, or where I was, but it came to me and it just made sense. i thought, his name is going to be miles.

we saw him on a warm spring day – it was one of those days when you still appreciate the sun in contrast to the long, cold winter. it’s hard to remember that feeling now, as i sit here wishing for the crisp chill of fall air. we saw him, peering out at us with a look of resignation in his eyes. he had been alive for 15 weeks – what were those weeks filled with? confusion, uncertainty, fear?

it took two days, but we brought him home. actually, henry brought him home. he was scared and we were scared. excited, but scared. we were proud of ourselves for making a decision solely for ourselves – free of judgment or out of doing what was expected of us – but for the first time in our lives, we had something that truly depended on us.

it has been four months now, and it’s been a journey. this dog – he has taught us more than we could have ever imagined. it’s almost as if our feelings are amplified; our love is stronger, our appreciation greater, our priorities realigned. miles challenges us to be better – to be patient, to be genuine, to be mindful, and to be grateful. he makes us stop and reconsider the confusion and chaos that we create for ourselves. he inspires us to be curious, to once again find amazement in things that we’ve grown accustomed to.  he inspires us to love unconditionally. every day, we strive to enjoy life as fully and freely as he.


stone fruit cobbler

this simple and rustic cobbler celebrates the end of summer with delicious, plump stone fruit. the fruit gives it a sweetness and a tartness, while the whole wheat biscuit topping gives it a heartiness that makes it a satisfying breakfast. serve with some heavy cream for an extra special treat, or ice cream for a country-inspired dessert. 

for the whole wheat biscuit topping:

recipe adapted from

bon appétit 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (you can substitute all-purpose flour if you would like a less hearty taste)

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup sour cream

in a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. add the butter to the mixture and incorporate using a pastry blender until only little pieces of butter remain, mixed throughout. add sour cream and mix gently. knead the mixture with your hands until ball of dough forms – being careful to not over mix. refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

for the filling:

5 or 6 pieces of stone fruit (I used 2 peaches and 4 plums – apricots would be great in here as well), cut into segments (you can also remove skin, but this is optional)

1/3 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds removed

the juice of 1/4 of a lime

2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

pinch of kosher salt

preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl combine fruit, sugar, the seeds from 1 vanilla bean, the juice of a 1/4 of a lime, and salt, mixing gently. add 2 tablespoons of flour and mix to incorporate (depending on how juicy your fruit is, you may want to add slightly more flour, but your mixture should be loose).

pour mixture into a cast iron skillet. remove the dough from the refrigerate and, using your hands, break into small pieces (about the size of golf balls). scatter the pieces over the top of the fruit and bake until golden brown and fruit is bubbling (about 45 minutes).

remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on a cooling rack. serve warm with vanilla ice cream (if desired).

a sunday worthy of cake

A few days ago, I discovered a truly inspirational blog, Bleubird.Like so many bloggers I aspire towards, James fills Bleubird’s pages withstunning photography, eloquent words, and endless ideas. It is her starkhonesty and boundless humility, though, that truly sets her apart. She doesn’t feignperfection, yet her creativity and talent abounds. Her style is eclectic andmismatched. She doesn’t follow trends, but instead makes her own. Her lifecould not be more dissimilar to my own, but somehow I found myself relating toher, and aspiring to her simplistic ways.

Life in New York City is hectic at best. Every day is afight through overcrowded streets and subways, just to get to work. Some days Ilove it – I live for the energy and momentum. Other days, I want to be anywherebut here, simply enjoying a quiet moment. What I tend to lose sight of, though,is that I AM capable of enjoying a quiet moment, amidst the chaos, if I createone for myself…

…which brings to me the “Sunday’s Cake” section on Bleubird.Last year, James made a promise to her family that they would bake a cake on Sundays, together. Do other plans get in the way? Of course. Do they sometimes bake thecake on a Monday? Yes. Are there weeks when they just don’t have time to bake acake at all? Absolutely. The point is, when possible, she makes the time toslow down, enjoy the moment, and do something she loves with her family.

This Sunday, I took some advice from James. I woke up, and started my day doing what I love– I baked a cake. And then, I spent a leisurely brunch eating the cake withsomeone I love. And then, we spent the afternoon enjoying what we so often “don’thave time” to enjoy. We walked through the park, and went to a museum. Weslowed down.

Something tells me this is the beginning of a weekly thing.
(Thanks, James from Bleubird, for the inspiration and thank you to Kate from Cookie + Kate for thedelicious recipe).

Orange Poppy Seed Cake (made with olive oil and yogurt)
 recipe from Cookie + Kate

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used just plain all purpose flour and it turned out perfectly)
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 medium orange or 2 small oranges, to be zested and juiced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest (zest from 1 medium orange)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a loaf pan (you can also line with parchment paper, to ensure your cake doesn’t stick. I buttered a non-stick loaf pan, and that worked well for me, though).
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add the sugar into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Grate all the zest from the orange(s) (should yield about 2 teaspoons zest – I used 2 small oranges). Rub the zest into the sugar with your hands until the sugar is orange and fragrant.
  4. Slice the orange (I used one orange) in half for juicing. In a liquid measuring cup, measure out 3/4 cup yogurt and squeeze in about 1/4 cup orange juice to yield 1 cup total liquid. Whisk the yogurt and juice together until smooth. Add the yogurt mixture, eggs, and vanilla into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.
  5. When the mixture is well blended, gently whisk in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Fold in the olive oil with a spatula, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
  6. Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes (I did 50), or until the top is golden and the sides start to pull away from the sides of the pan; a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to loosen. Unmold the cake by placing a large plate upside down over the loaf pan and carefully turning them over. Let the cake cool to room temperature right-side up on a wire rack.

A Festive Sunday

It’s officially Christmas time. Lights twinkle from otherwise barren trees, Christmas carols play from every storefront, people walk about bundled in scarves, carrying red holiday Starbucks cups. It’s a truly magical time of year. 

When I think of holiday cooking, I think of warm, comforting, hearty dishes – those meant to be eaten out of a bowl while curled up on the couch. I also think of desserts – sweet, rich, guilt-ladden desserts that no one feels bad eating, because hey, it’s Christmas. Probably one of the most iconic dessert of the holidays would have to be gingerbread. The smell of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves just screams Christmas to me. So, today, as I embraced the holiday spirit, I decided to fill my apartment with these comforting smells and bake a gingerbread. 
As all holiday baking should be, gingerbread is truly simple. A traditional cake base of sugar, butter, eggs, and flour, spiced up with warm seasonings and molasses.
And the best part, it is TOTALLY acceptable to enjoy a piece for breakfast. It is bread, after all.
Bake some Christmas in your oven today – I promise you will be happy that you did!
Happy Holidays!
Gingerbread